Ardent Leisure Group’s Dreamworld to close Thunder River Rapids ride

Ardent Leisure Group (ASX: AAD) CEO Deborah Thomas this morning informed the market that its Thunder River Rapids ride at Dreamworld – on which four visitors died late last month – will be permanently decommissioned.

Ardent has moved rapidly to minimise damage to the public’s perception of its rides, hiring a public relations firm and announcing a full review of all rides and attractions in the park.

Engineers have been hired to review all Dreamworld and WhiteWater World rides and operating systems, and the review of those engineers will itself be independently reviewed by another industry leader.

Ms Thomas declared that: “No ride at Dreamworld will operate until the Workplace Health and Safety Audit has been completed and unless it passes the multi-level internal and external review process.”

The families of the four deceased will be invited to create a lasting memorial at the theme park.

Ardent has chosen to wear the short-term costs of reviewing operations and decommissioning the ride in order to avoid long-term damage to the group’s reputation. Given that the public perception of the safety of Ardent’s rollercoasters is vitally important to future ticket sales, this is probably the wisest fiscal, as well as moral, decision.

However, today’s update only makes it appear more likely that Ardent will soon be reporting heavy costs associated with the Dreamworld closure and safety reviews, although as I noted here the company appears to have the financial resources to weather the storm.

Media reports have indicated that Dreamworld CEO Craig Davidson is scheduled to make an announcement and offer more information with regards to the ride demolition and potential reopening this afternoon. More to come.

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Motley Fool contributor Sean O'Neill has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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